Ankle sprains are a common running injury that may result in anything from minor short term impairment to severe pain and chronic instability. They can arise from seemingly innocuous event – stepping on a slightly uneven surface, to more predictable occurrences eg slipping during an evening trail run in wet conditions.
The ankle is most commonly sprained in an inverted position – this is where the lateral (outside) part of the foot tilts downwards and the force of your bodyweight and momentum causes one or more of the ligaments on the outside ankle bone to stretch. Ankle sprain injuries are typically assigned a grading from 1 to 3 based on the degree of damage to the ligaments.
Ankle sprain grades
- Grade 1 injuries a mild stretch of the ligaments with minimal pain and a fairly quick recovery time between 1 day to 2 weeks depending on capacity to recover.
- Grade 2 injuries are a more severe version of a Grade 1 injury, involving greater damage to the ligaments with anywhere from 2-6 weeks required for recovery.
- Grade 3 injuries involve the complete rupture of 1 or more ligaments. This results in swelling, bruising, and will leave the ankle chronically unstable.
Treatment involves rest, and use of ice, compression elevation as often as possible within the initial 72 hour period following the incident. Early mobilisation, such as walking and specific exercises assist in improving the recovery process. In cases where pain is unbearable (particularly focused around the outside ankle and foot) and it is not possible to stand on the foot, an X-Ray may be beneficial to rule out the potential for fractures.
Note: X-Rays can not determine soft tissue damage such as ligament rupture
Rehab and Pre-hab
A thorough rehabilitation program will assist in the recovery phase of your injury and get you back running as quickly as possible. Often ankle sprains can occur due to instability of the ligaments and tendons surrounding the ankle. Preventative measures such as pre-hab can assist with improving strength and stability of the ankle and help reduce the likelihood of repeated ankle sprains.
If you have recently experienced an ankle sprain, have weak ankles or simply would like to improve your ankle stability through pre-hab, visit one of our experienced intraining Running Injury Clinicians who can assist with all facets of ankle sprain diagnosis, preventative measures and rehabilitation.
Keen to learn more about running injuries? Check out our monthly ‘From the Sole‘ newsletter, written by intraining Running Injury Clinic podiatrists, physiotherapist and dietitian.